What is the Difference Between SSDI and SSI?

This is a question we get a lot.

The Social Security Administration has two disability programs:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI), also called DIB or Title 2 benefits, and
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), also called Title 16 benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI)

SSDI is a program that pays you benefits based on your earnings history. Each year, your earnings are tracked and you earn quarters of coverage (QC) — commonly referred to as “work credits,” or just “credits.” You can earn a maximum of four quarters each year.

For you to be insured you must have earned 20 quarters within the past 10 years before becoming disabled. Another way to think about it is — have you worked 5 out of the last 10 years before becoming disabled? If yes, then you are likely to be eligible for SSDI.

If you’re not sure if you’re eligible for SSDI, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and ask them “what is my date last insured?” If you were disabled before this date, then you should qualify for SSDI. See our related post: What Does Being Insured for Benefits Mean?

If you qualify for SSDI benefits, you also qualify for Medicare.

If you are under age 31 the criteria is different. Please see our related post Can Younger People Get Disability Benefits? to learn more.

SSDI benefits can be paid up to a year before you  filed your application.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program designed to help you if you’re disabled, blind, or 65 or older and indigent.

  • If you are disabled there are several non-disability requirements you must meet to be eligible for SSI.
  • Because SSI disability payments are awarded only if you’re disabled and needy, there are also some income and resource requirements.

The current financial rules for SSI eligibility are:

If you are an individual:

  • you must have less than $2,000 in resources,
  • can only own 1 automobile,
  • can only own 1 home (must be your primary residence).

If you are married:

  • you must have less than $3,000 in resources,
  • can only own 1 automobile,
  • can only own 1 home (must be your primary residence).

If you qualify for SSI benefits, you also qualify for Medicaid.

SSI benefits can only be paid as far back as the month after you filed your application. So, if you filed an application in March 2008, your benefits can’t start until April 2008, assuming you’re found disabled as of that date.

See our recent post on the SSI benefit amount for 2010.

For more information about SSI, see Social Security’s page Understanding SSI.

If you’d like to talk to an attorney about your Social Security case, please contact us via e-mail, phone, or the Internet.  

This blog is a public resource for general information. This blog and the materials provided in it have been prepared by Spencer Law Firm for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. No client or other reader should rely on, act on or refrain from acting based on information contained in this website without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.